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An Orrick litigation team secured a sweeping defense verdict for the NCAA in the first trial in the nation involving claims related to concussions and CTE in college football players. The Los Angeles jury returned the verdict after only a day of deliberations following a three-week trial.
Led by partner Will Stute, the Orrick team defended the NCAA in a lawsuit brought by the family of former USC football player Matthew Gee, who played during the late 1980s and died at 49 years old. The family sought more than $50 million in damages, but the jury rejected every claim, resulting in no liability for the NCAA.
The lawsuit attempted to hold the NCAA responsible for Gee’s death, asserting that his deteriorating health resulted from CTE caused by college football, and that the NCAA could have prevented his injuries. But our trial team argued that there was no evidence or medical science to support the plaintiff’s case, presenting extensive testimony and evidence demonstrating that Gee’s deteriorating medical condition and death were the result of other tragic factors, and that the NCAA’s conduct at the time Gee played was supported by medical and scientific consensus.
“While we express deep sympathy for Gee’s family, the jury verdict vindicates our position – there was no evidence supporting plaintiff’s contention that the NCAA was responsible in any way for Gee’s death,” Will said after the verdict.
The case established important legal precedent for the NCAA and college athletics in defending similar actions. The verdict was extensively covered in the media, including ESPN, AP, Los Angeles Times, NPR and Reuters.
In addition to Will, the Orrick team was led by partners William Molinski and David Fuad, and included partners Marc Shapiro and Anne Malik and associates Natalie Nahabet, Deena Dulgerian, John Badalich, Justin Washington and Alexis Golling-Sledge.